Kenyan science teacher Peter Tabichi wins a $1m global prize

Peter Tabichi lifts up his prize at the 2019 Global Teachers Award in Dubai

The news about one Mr. Peter Tabichi, a member of the Franciscan religious order based in Nakuru Kenya, winning the 2019 Global Teacher Prize was a merry. Mr Tabichi was honored for his achievements in a deprived school with crowded classes and few text books not to mention ICT appliances.

The award was announced in a ceremony in Dubai, where teachers from across the globe got recognition for the “exceptional” commitments they put towards students welfare and achievement.

Tabichi, a science teacher in a remote Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, Nakuru of Kenya’s Rift Valley,  was among fifty others globally who submitted applications for the award. He gives away 80% of his pay to support pupils who cannot afford uniforms or books. And mentions other challanges with a lack of facilities at his school, including not enough books or teachers.

The Global Teachers Award, is a competition run by the Varkey Foundation, has seen Tabichi win 10,000 other nominations from 179 countries.

.Science as a future

The 36-year-old teacher wants to raise aspirations and to promote the cause of science, not just in Kenya but across Africa. He says that all he ever wants is to enable students see science as a future and the way to go.

“It’s not all about money. As a teacher working on the front line, I have seen the promise of young people  their curiosity, talent,  intelligence and even their belief.” Says Peter Tabichi, whose pupils are almost all from very disadvantaged families, adding; “Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations. Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story.” miles to reach the school, in Kenya’s Rift Valley

Classes meant to have 35 to 40 pupils are taught in groups of 70 or 80, which, he says, means overcrowded classrooms and problems for teachers. The lack of a reliable internet connection means he has to travel to a cyber-cafe to download resources for his science lessons and many of the pupils walk more than four miles (6km) on bad roads to reach the school. He however says he is determined to give them a chance to learn about science and to raise their horizons.

His pupils have been successful in national and international science competitions, including an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK. The judges said that his work at the school had “dramatically improved his pupils’ achievement”, with many more now going on to college or university, despite resources at the schools being “severely constrained”.

Status of teaching

Tabichi says part of the challenge has been to persuade the local community to recognise the value of education, visiting families whose children are at risk of dropping out of school. He tries to change the minds of families who expect their daughters to get married at an early age – encouraging them to keep their girls in school.

He optimistically says, “It’s morning in Africa. The skies are clear and the day is young.  There is a blank page waiting to be written. This is Africa’s time.”

Peter got a congratulatory message from president, Uhuru Kenyatta that read in part, “Peter – your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent. Your students have shown that they can compete amongst the best in the world in science, technology and all fields of human endeavor.”

The competition that intends to raise the status of the teaching profession was founded by Sunny Varkey, who said he hopes Brother Peter’s story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Kenya and throughout the world every day.

“The thousands of nominations and applications we received from every corner of the planet is testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives,” says Sunny Varkey.


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